• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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We are all corrupt … revisited (1)


In 2010, August 24 and 30, I wrote two articles with the above topic.  The key point I made in the two articles is that we are all corrupt because we are powerless in the face of injustice. Permit me to share a quote from the articles:


In August 30, I wrote: “we have only associated corruption with government officials stealing our money, but this is only a tiny aspect of what corruption is in Nigeria today.”For the next four series, I am revisiting this topic, for the following reason:


President Muhammadu Buhari emerged President of Nigeria last year on the back of the campaign to rid Nigeria of corruption. He boasted to “kill corruption before corruption kills Nigeria”. However, the President, by focusing on those that stole from the public till, may inadvertently be overlooking dimensions of corruption that have greater future implications for the economy and Nigeria. Whereas, I believe that, as my quote from 2010 above suggested, to effectively address corruption in Nigeria, you must not only understand its history; you must be able to dimension it, and then be able to systematically deal with it. Otherwise, at the end of the four years, the daily feast on corruption stories would only have amounted to what can be described as “Village Headmaster”.


Therefore, starting with this piece, I hope to point out some other dimensions of corruption the President could focus on.


Three weeks ago, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, IbeKachikwu, now the Chairman of the board of NNPC, at the town hall discussions held in Uyo, was quoted as saying that the “President will allocate oil blocs to those from the Niger Delta” in the next allocation rounds. As expected, I did not see any negative reaction to this statement. In fact, it was overshadowed by the division between himself and his counterpart in the transport ministry, Rotimi Amaechi, over the plans for the Maritime University.


However, the statement goes to the root of how we got here. Arguably, that root can be traced to the indigenisation decrees of 1972 and 1977, and all measures that arrogated resources to the State at the federal level. In a brilliant Ph.D. thesis by submitted to the University of Warwick in 1985, Ismaila Mohammed argued that the indigenisation decrees led to “the consolidation of an economy which accommodated the interests of ex-State personnel.” He argued further that the original (stated) objective, which was the national economic independence of the country, was never achieved.


Why? The entire indigenisation decree was founded on corruption and injustice. Not only that State revenues of the 1970s provided the greatest motivation for indigenisation, it was used to acquire assets that were eventually transferred to private sector members who are cronies, patrons, friends, and family members of state personnel. To fully understand the injustice, you only need to check who the leaders were then and the section of the country they are from, and match them with where those in the private sector that emerged came from. So, corruption has always been founded on injustice, to the White man then, the Niger Deltans and the Nigerian masses; as the elite continued to allocate and arrogate to themselves the commonwealth of the country or and of the Niger Delta, depending on your understanding of the political economy structure of the 1970s.


In the 1980s and 1990s, board appointments to these companies perpetuated this corruption, as it has just been done in the case of NNPC, the allocation of oil blocs to the same circle of cronies and patrons and the start of the collection of 10% kickback. By the turn of the century, 10% kickback was no longer sufficient to satisfy the greedy appetites of State personnel, and it gave rise to the new normal, which is to be part of the State and be part of the businesses. I do not know if that has stopped.


In relation to the allocation of oil blocs, therefore, I do not expect the President that is determined to kill corruption to also preside over corruption. Allocation of oil blocs in the past is discretionary, selective, and arbitrary. Such a process can never be fair. A checklist of past recipients of oil blocs provides the greatest evidence that the Nigerian State is more of a conveyor belt for corruption than a tool for Nigeria’s economic prosperity. Just in case you are not familiar with the process, soon after allocation, the real oil companies now pay what is considered the market price for the oil blocs and the State and Nigerians gets virtually nothing.


In conclusion, there is no doubt in my mind that the political economy structure of this country and its distributional implications are founded and established on corruption, and therefore injustice. There is nothing that President Muhammadu Buhari has done to destroy this foundation. Indeed, there is nothing he has done to demonstrate that he understands it. At the moment, as wonderful as the current fight against corruption is, it is a fight against those that stole by dipping their hands directly into government coffers.


All other forms of corruption that have existed since the 1970s, while we may not know it, I suspect have continued under this administration also. And if Ibe Kachikwu’s assertion that the President will allocate oil blocs to Niger Deltans is right, it thus means that PMB will be presiding over corruption. What should be done instead is to collate the names and the interests of all those that were allocated oil blocs since the 1970s, estimate the barrels of oil that have been produced, and calculate a windfall tax that should be paid to the government over a period of time. And going forward, all oil blocs should be auctioned. I thank you.


Ogho Okiti